Attendees at Grown In’s Illinois Cannabis Business Conference on Friday, March 24, 2023.

The Illinois cannabis market is undergoing a great re-awakening. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have a new cohort of cannabis startups licensed to sell, grow and manufacture products derived from the plant.

Before they can get their bud businesses up and rolling, however, dispensary, craft grow and infusers in the state’s nearly $2 billion market need to develop commercial relationships with established cultivators which include many of the largest cannabis corporations in the world.

Interestingly enough, ganga Goliaths including the likes of Cresco LABS, Green Thumb Industries, Curaleaf, Ascend Wellness Holdings, 4Front Ventures, IESO, Aeriz and Nature’s Grace and Wellness necessarily need to find as many David’s as possible to distribute their doobies.

The mission of Grown In is to initiate and cultivate commercial relationships among cannabis industry professionals with complementary interests to create new opportunities and catalyze business growth.  

On March 24 at the Zhou B Art Center on Chicago’s Southside, Grown In curated and scheduled approximately 100 private meetings between new operators seeking to stock their shelves with cultivators now tasked with finding additional ways to monetize an abundance of supply. This is how markets are made. 

Additional industry stakeholders included:

  • Acting Illinois Cannabis Regulation Officer Erin Johnson
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture Cannabis Division Manager David Lakeman
  • Deputy Director of Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation Vaughn Bentley

They graciously participated in informal conversations with operators seeking clarity on guidelines and best practices for operating in a state-sanctioned company within a federally illegal industry. 

Beyond scheduled meetings and access to regulators, conference participants along with invited guests, rock star volunteers and mentor investors from Cannabis Innovation Lab (a joint venture between 1871, World Business Chicago and Grown In) spent hours serendipitously getting to know each other more deeply throughout the day.

One of the strongest foundations of a company’s success is relationships. If you can build real relationships as you grow your company, it helps strengthen the chances of your company succeeding. Grown In has been able to do that through its last Cannabis Business Conferences to create a bridge for Illinois cannabis companies.

Paul Chialdikas, Vice President of Sales, Curaleaf

To culminate everything we learned and provide access to various cannabis products that were on offer at Grown In’s Cannabis Business Conference, our friends at Sesh Bus provided a legally sanctioned way to sample many of the goodies generously provided by Curaleaf and NuEra Cannabis. The juxtaposition of buttoned up business meetings by day into consumption-infused networking and happy hours throughout the afternoon is something we’d like to see a lot more of! 

For another fulfilling and fun Chicago experience, sign up for our 4/20 Summit co-hosted by 1871.  In the meantime, if your state, municipality, corporation or organization is seeking ways to creatively convene cannabis professionals in pursuit of economic expansion, fill out this form!

Avatar photo

Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.